Ibrahimovic. Rooney. Martial. Rashford. Names idolised by boys and girls in playgrounds, parks and on football pitches across not just Manchester, but the entire globe.

For most, it’s a dream to emulate their Manchester United heroes and step out on to the hallowed turf at Old Trafford, in front of 75,000 adoring fans.

The unfortunate truth means that a scant few will ever see this dream become reality.

However, this hasn’t stopped the Reds becoming part of day-to-day life for boys and girls across Greater Manchester.

The Manchester United foundation provides support and opportunities to local communities, in a bid to improve the lives of young people through the beautiful game.

In the 2015/16 season, the scheme saw over 20,000 participants and raised over £1.4m through a number of fundraising activities

And in March, the foundation celebrated its tenth year, having worked with schools, colleges and community centres to develop projects which help young people both on and off the football pitch.

One of the most successful projects has been the Street Reds scheme, where weekly football sessions for 8-18 year olds take place in 12 communities across Greater Manchester, under the watch of Manchester United coaches, all free of charge.

The scheme aims to offer a positive environment where the next generation can follow their passion of football, whilst also learning and developing key skills which will help them through their walk of life.

And speaking to coaches Caythorne, Jacob and Joe from the Ordsall Street Reds session, they made it clear how much of an impact the scheme has had on the local community.

“It’s been a great opportunity to bring the communities together through football,” said Jacob, who has been coaching these sessions for a year and a half.

“We’re able to integrate people from different communities into one, from different backgrounds and different groups, and bring them all together.”

Caythorne , a former Street Reds participant, was also vocal about uniting people from different backgrounds through the sport.

He said: “A lot of different areas don’t mix in our sort of neighbourhood, so they can come together and share the love through football.”

And Joe, who has been a Street Reds coach for two years, was also passionate about building a sense of community through the scheme.

He said: “It’s important for them to meet new people, different cultures, different types of people.

“Some who even go to the same school or live on the same street don’t speak to each other until they come to this session, so I think it’s pretty vital.”

The sessions have also had a wider ranging social impact, and it is something that the coaches are very proud of.

“What else would these kids be up to on a Friday night? You wouldn’t really want to think,” admitted Joe.

Caythorne added: “The crime rates have reduced, the anti-social behaviour has reduced; I think it’s important because it gets kids off the street.”

Whilst Street Reds is focused on offering football recreationally, as opposed to the likes of club academies, there is one man who participants can hope to follow in the footsteps of.

Current United star Marcus Rashford was a participant at Street Reds at the same time he was progressing through United’s academy.

And despite his rise to the top, the now 19-year-old was still playing with his friends at his local session, days after scoring twice on his Premier League debut against Arsenal.

However, the coaches insist Street Reds is a chance to improve much more than just footballing talent.

“It’s about helping them to benefit themselves in their life and in their future and just help them have skills to help them move forward,” insisted Jacob.

“Some of the participants we’ve had have gone on to get jobs at the club – paid jobs and volunteering opportunities,” said Joe, who had just made two participants sit on the touchline for arriving late.

And speaking about this sense of discipline, he explained: “It’s only a little thing but long term, if they are late for work or late for school, it can help them with things like that.”

Looking forward to the next ten years, all three coaches were clear in their aspirations for the foundation.

“I just want to it grow, I just want to see it get bigger and I want to see more,” said Caythorne.

“I think it just needs to keep going in the footsteps it’s already going in,” admitted Jacob, whilst Joe echoed his colleagues’ thoughts.

“I want to see how much we can improve it and build on what we’ve already got.”

By Russell Edge

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